When I read about Abby Stein in a Jewish Telegraphic Agency article, I knew I wanted to talk to her. She’s 24, a student in Brooklyn, and the descendant of a founder of Hasidic Judaism, Rabbi Yisroel ben Eliezer (also known as the Baal Shem Tov).
Four years ago, she left the Hasidic faith in which she was raised, and about a month ago, she came out publicly — including to her conservative family — as a transgender woman.
When it comes to gender roles, Hasidic Judaism is arguably one of the strictest religions in how it upholds specific rules and responsibilities for men and women. Understandably, Stein’s coming out hasn’t gone over well with her family, particularly with her father. But she’s found a safe space in liberal Jewish circles where she’s accepted for her true self, and she blogs regularly to share news about her gender identity, her journey, and her relationship to her past and present faith.
Stein and I talked on the phone about her interest not only in atheism, but in progressive Judaism, humanism, philosophy, and the many other pieces that make up who she is.